It was a bold statement, but none of Tom Nelson's fellow candidates for lieutenant governor seemed to disagree.
"When evaluating the office of lieutenant governor," Nelson said at a debate-style forum Wednesday night at the Concourse Hotel, "the only thing that matters is how does that candidate help or in some cases hurt the gubernatorial candidate."
Nelson is one of four Democrats fighting to be Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett's running mate. The winner of the Sept. 14 primary will join Barrett on the Nov. 2 ballot. The majority leader of the state Assembly, Nelson thinks that the fact that he hails from the Green Bay-Fox Valley region of the state will help give Barrett the upper hand in his race against Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker.
The other candidates are state Sen. Spencer Coggs, jobs activist Henry Sanders and businessman James Schneider. At the forum, they differed little on the type of policies they support.
All four candidates consider themselves progressives; all are for gay marriage and against the state constitutional ban on it passed in 2006; and all support improving racial disparity gaps and keeping the UW System a priority.
Each candidate wants to change the notion that Wisconsin is a bad climate for business because, as Coggs said, it's a "branding on the state of Wisconsin that is simply not true."
And each of the candidates argued that he was best able to help Barrett win.
Sanders, a Madisonian who was a staffer in Tammy Baldwin's office, said his statewide efforts will make the difference for Barrett.
"Our campaign is about people being accessible," said Sanders, who enjoys support from state politicians as well as Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz and Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk. "That's why we have so much support statewide."
Coggs, a longtime state senator from Milwaukee, thinks he can electrify Barrett's base.
"Tom Barrett comes from the largest demographic of Democrats in the state of Wisconsin, but so does Scott Walker," said Coggs, who garnered more union endorsements than any of his opponents. "Politics 101 says you must win in your base to win your election."
And Schneider, a businessman from Gotham in Richland County, said he believes he can bring a "rural" yet "shared sense of vision" for the state of Wisconsin.
"What we really need to do as a state is have a sense of direction to say this is where we are headed so that all things have some semblance of working together," he said.
State Sen. Spencer Coggs, 61, of Milwaukee, has served in the Legislature in some capacity since 1983, and is chairman of the Senate Committee on Labor, Elections and Urban Affairs and is a member of the powerful Joint Finance Committee. www.spencercoggs.com
State Rep. Tom Nelson, 34, of Kaukauna, the majority leader in the Assembly, was first elected to the Assembly in 2004 and chosen as majority leader in 2008. www.tomnelsonforwi.com
Henry Sanders, of Waunakee, is a former outreach coordinator for Rep. Tammy Baldwin and the founder of two Madison-area nonprofits aimed at bringing more jobs to Wisconsin. www.henrysanders.org
James Schneider, 62, of Gotham, is a businessman who has served as chairman of the Sauk County Democratic Party, been a member of the Lodi City Council and ran for Assembly twice unsuccessfully in the 1970s. www.schneiderlg.com